An ‘atmospheric river’ floods Northern California
A Pacific storm fueled by tropical humidity scoured California’s capital with rain over the weekend and may have contributed to at least three deaths in the West, officials said.
Sacramento appeared to have the worst of the winter front’s atmospheric river — a long, narrow strip of moisture drawn from the tropics — with widespread flooding, the closure of a key highway and one of the fatalities.
On Sunday afternoon, mandatory evacuations were activated for residents of the Point Pleasant community south of the city of Sacramento, Sacramento County officials said. They expressed concern that any need for floodwater rescue in the area would be complicated by darkness after dark.
“Flooding in the area is imminent,” the Sacramento County Office of Emergency Services said in a statement. “Flood waters become incredibly dangerous after sunset. Please be out of the area and off the roads while there is still light to reasonably see any danger.”
About 1,600 residents who signed up for cellphone alerts received messages with evacuation orders, county spokesman Kim Nava said.
Three breaches of a levee adjacent to the Cosumnes River in the community of Wilton have been reported since the storm first hit the area on Saturday, contributing to fears of possible flash flooding in these low-lying communities, a- she declared.
The river reached its highest water level on record at 76.22 feet around 11:30 p.m. Saturday, Nava said.
Cellphone video from the area showed several vehicles with water up to their windows and higher on Sunday. NBC affiliate KCRA of Sacramento reported that dozens of motorists were rescued from vehicles stuck in high water in Sacramento County.
Flash flood warnings remained in effect for several communities south of the capital until further notice, according to the National Weather Service.
On Sunday, first responders discovered a body in a vehicle that was submerged by floodwaters on or near Highway 99 at Dillard Road, south of Elk Grove, KCRA reported.
The cause of death and the identity of the deceased were not available, and the Cosumnes Fire Department did not immediately respond to a request for information.
Parts of Highway 99, including a stretch more than a mile south of Elk Grove, have been closed since Saturday night, according to the California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans. The freeway is not expected to reopen until Monday afternoon or later, Caltrans said.
On Sunday evening, amid several vehicle traffic jams, the California Highway Patrol stopped eastbound traffic on Interstate 80 along Donner Peak northwest of Lake Tahoe. The snow clung to the shoulder, but authorities were allowing motorists to make the trip without snow chains.
Highway 50 east of Kyburz was reduced to one lane in each direction after rocks hit the highway overnight, Caltrans said.
The effects of the storm were felt from the US-Mexico border to northern California, even as it moved east into the Rocky Mountains.
Although the past three years have been the driest on record for the state, the atmospheric river has delivered snow to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the state’s natural water storage reservoir. The National Weather Service said nearly 10 inches of snow fell at Reno-Tahoe airport in Nevada on Sunday. The establishment reported on Saturday “heavy snowfallwhich caused flight delays and cancellations.
By the end of Saturday, downtown San Francisco had recorded more than 5 inches of rain, a one-day amount beaten in the history books only by a deluge in November 1994.
Nearby Oakland, however, set its single-day record with 4.75 inches of rain, the National Weather Service said. The number broke the record set in 1982.
At Lighthouse Field State Beach in Santa Cruz County, about 80 miles south of San Francisco, the body of a 72-year-old man was found under a 120-foot fallen cypress tree Saturday afternoon, officials said. park officials. The victim’s name was not available.
In Breckenridge, Colorado on Sunday afternoon, a man and his adult son hiking and skiing in a backcountry area outside the Breckenridge ski resort boundaries were shot dead by an avalanche, the Summit County Rescue Group said in a statement.
The father was able to escape and call for help, but when rescuers arrived they found the son buried in the snow and dead, the group said.
Experts said the first week of the new year will bring more wet weather to the West via storms brewing in the Gulf of Alaska fueled by tropical rainfall from the Pacific.
“Chances of precipitation will increase again on Monday and Tuesday as a series of Pacific Storm systems continue to affect the area,” the National Weather Service said.
“The next major system begins Tuesday evening,” NWS Bay Area forecasters said. tweeted.
Brian Gallion, Rania Soetirto and Courtney Brogle contributed.